Bollinger La Grande Année 2012

(If you are not familiar with Champagne Bollinger, you can read my previous article here: Tasting at Bollinger)

While I was practicing a Schubert sonata for my upcoming piano concert, the bell rang: a mysterious package had been delivered to my door. I stood perplexed to discover that it was the brand new Bollinger La Grande Année 2012! What a privilege.

2012 was the year I started to make a name as a champagne critic and journalist. Champagnifique – my website before The Champagnist – became a reference for tasting notes: I received so many champagne samples that my student house basement (which I used as a cellar and computer server room) was completely full. So, reviewing all of them, step by step I built up my reputation. During that year I had one of the most memorable champagne trips: l tasted many old vintages and rare champagnes and met wonderful vignerons that became friends for life. Spring can be also so lovely and idyllic in Champagne: it is the time where the vines awake from their winter hibernation. However I remember it was gray, dark and cold and many wine growers complained about the horrible weather conditions. Just when that happened there was frost and hail that caused damage to the vines. This resulted in a loss of grapes. In the beginning of summer there were floods of rain. I remember visiting a champagne vineyard and my umbrella broke because of the weight of the rain. Due to these terrible weather conditions, vine leaves started to get molded by mildew and followed by the fungal disease oïdium – a grower’s nightmare. The vineyards that were treated organical with copper got rid of the problem fast. Fortunately, God or Dionysus heard the prayers of the vignerons. Halfway July, suddenly, a warm summer until harvest mid-September gave the grapes perfect phenolic ripeness. You can definitely call it the miracle year 2012.
2012 was also the first year that I was invited for a guided tour and dinner at maison Bollinger. The visit included also a tasting of vins clairs. These still wines are the base for their Non Vintage and Vintage champagnes. In March 2013 I tasted the wines from the harvest 2012 The “vins clairs Chardonnays” I tasted were lacking finesse and even typicity of the terroir: I didn’t recognize for example the character of Le Mesnil sur Oger or Avize. The true exceptions were Vertus which showed tremendous complexity and lovely luxurious reductive notes together with the typical floral overtones and Cuis that had lovely crystallized lemon and a lot of mineral punch. Although 2012 was a great year for Pinot and that was confirmed when I tasted the vins clairs Pinot Meunier wines: generous, complex and also lovely tension and high toned acidity. The Pinot Noirs were close to phenomenal, notably the ones from Aÿ, Bouzy, Ambonnay, Damery and Verzenay. (La Grande Année is made of 22 different crus but only from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.). You can definitely call it “the miraculous vintage 2012”.

I’ve tasted all the vintages of La Grande Année since 1989. I can say that 2007 was the last vintage really made in the “Goût Anglaise” style: bold, oxidative and powerful. Personally I find the highly praised 2008 a little bit overrated. When I tasted it, it was not expressive, neither rich in aromas but rather muted, premature and not giving the pleasure to expect from this prestigious wine. I want to revisit this vintage next year to see how it evolves. The LGA 2012 on the other hand is absolutely gorgeous as it is less dominated by the Chanson Burgundy barrel wood. This wine is refined with layers of complexity, pure fruit, balanced autolytic and moderately spiced with just a haze of oxidative and woody overtones. This is the next level La Grande Année!

Tasting note:

The 2012 Grande Année has an intense yellow golden color with copper reflection, a perfectly refined effervescence and delicate tears on the glass. The nose opens with tropical notes of lychee and mangosteen followed by orange oil, orange blossom, fresh almonds, a hint of lemon curd, Moroccan preserved lemons, chamomile tea, candied ginger, warm spiced note of mace and cornflakes all together with delicate woody notes of papyrus, cedar wood, roasted coffee beans and a hint of smoke. The wine shows creamier and vinous notes out of a bigger glass: butterscotch, Isigny crème, Madagascar vanilla, crème aux beurre, dried yellow raisins, bergamot and acacia honey seduce the senses. After one hour in the glass it evolves to a sweet note of tamarind, pineapple, beach sand in the sun, freshly mown cereals and a dry note of fried onion. What a gorgeous parfum: I would almost spray it on myself! Four hours later the wine changed again showing more coffee, rosehip, dried red fruits, fennel, oxidative notes and also with a hint of Grand Marnier coming through. The texture of this wine is charming, slightly creamy but with the trademark expansive Bollinger grip. On the palate you get an overture of apricot, candied lemon and curd followed by salted lemon, a hint of hawthorn comfiture and yellow blossom clover honey. On the mid palate you get rhubarb and sour oranges. The finish is very elegant and also long with a lovely mild acidity of clementine oranges, kumquat, Meyer lemon, hazelnut and macadamia nuts with a touch of mild cigar and dried porcini mushrooms. This is a surprisingly “ready to drink Bolly”, but the ageing potential of this wine is huge. A gorgeous wine to appreciate now but l can recommend cellaring it for at least a decade. The complexity, structure, acidity and depth will make it a legendary champagne.
92 points
95+ points potential

Technical specs:

Blend: 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay from 21 crus
Harvest: 2012
Disgorged: November 2019
Dosage: 8 g/l
Vinification: in used oak Burgundy barrels, on the lees for 7.5 years, malolactic fermentation
Warning: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /customers/a/0/2/ on line 211 Michiel Demarey
Michiel Demarey
Michiel Demarey is a blogger and journalist specialized in champagne. He is Knight in the order of Coteaux de Champagne.